The good news is Ducati managed to trim another second off of Valentino Rossi‘s Day Two test time. The bad news is the Doctor is still over a second behind Casey Stoner.

Of course, considering how much faster Stoner has been compared with everyone else at the MotoGP test in Sepang, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. But it does highlight how much Rossi and Ducati need to improve in order to compete against the 2011 MotoGP Champion.

Rossi led all riders with 42 laps on the third and final day of the three-day Sepang test, recording a time of 2:00.824 on his best lap, fifth fastest overall. That represents a 1.062 second improvement on his Day Two time and a 1.568 second improvement from his time on Day One. Catching up to Stoner would be asking a lot at this point in the Ducati Desmosedici’s development, considering the GP12’s quick turnaround.

While there is still a lot of ground to make up, Rossi says the team is happy with the progress it has made.

“We on the team are all happy with how this test has gone, especially today. With a 2:00.8, we’re starting to get to a decent time. The two Hondas and the two Yamahas are still ahead of us, but we consider this test to be a starting point. The most positive things we’ve achieved are that the front now lets me ride a little more as I’m able, that the bike reacts well to changes and that we have very clear ideas on what’s still missing. In particular, if we manage to improve the bike’s behaviour on acceleration, we’ll be able to take a consistent step forward. I know that the work has never stopped at Ducati, and now with the information we’ve gathered, they’ll keep working on the areas that we’ve identified. That might take a while, but there’s still some time before the first race. We have to keep improving, so we’re not getting too excited, but I’m pleased with how things have gone so far.” – Rossi

Meanwhile, Rossi’s teammate Nicky Hayden continues to be hampered by the shoulder injury he suffered in December. Hayden completed 19 laps on the third day, shutting it down around noon.

“Obviously, I’d like to have done more. I can’t really say it was a real test for me, but I did a few laps each morning in order to at least get a feel for the new bike, get a little data and understand a couple of things. Even in that limited time, I was able to make small improvements and go quicker each day. Ducati did an amazing job with this bike in a short amount of time. It’s smoother than any other Ducati I’ve ever ridden, it looks slick and it’s good to work on. It’s got good power, and the front end is working well, but with the extra power, now we’ve got to find better rear traction at the first touch of the throttle. With the few adjustments we’ve made, everything seems to be going in a good way, so now I just need to get healthy.” – Hayden

Hayden’s best time in his limited session was 2:01.729, good enough for 10th overall.

Satellite rider Hector Barbera continues to impress. The Pramac Ducati rider had the sixth-fastest time at 2:00.929, just a tenth of a second behind Rossi but ahead of all other non-factory riders. Cardion AB’s Karel Abraham also showed some improvement but his fastest time of 2:02.218 was only the 12th fastest time on the day.

[Source: Ducati, MotoGP]

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